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Shout-Out Spotlight: Brooklyn Students Use Rap to Respond to Recent News

In a recent edition of the Week in Rap, we dedicated our coverage to multiple stories about horrific acts of violence that were carried out by ISIS in Paris and Beirut and on a Russian airliner. Events like these can leave us with a range of emotions, opinions and questions, so for the accompanying Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest, we asked students to channel all of the above to create an artistic work in response to the news. We got many amazing submissions from students using art to express thoughts and feelings about the attacks. Though it was difficult to select a winner, we chose the students of P368K Star Academy in our hometown of Brooklyn, NY. These students wrote moving, thoughtful rhymes in reaction to recent news. We spoke with P368K American and World History Teacher and Debate Team Coach Debra Newman to learn more about the project.

Debra Newman's Class

Debra has previously led students at P368K through a number of rhyme-writing projects about current events, so it was natural that her students took to the page when it came to this Shout-Out Contest prompt. We were blown away by her students’ raps, and we took the opportunity to ask Debra how writing rap fits in her classroom and ask for her tips to other educators.

Q: Why do you use Flocabulary with your students?
A: Flocabulary is both engaging and informative. Moreover, my students retain the information presented. Most significantly, the Week in Rap’s engaging presentation of current events helps to inspire my students to discuss and debate important issues. As a teacher, one of your goals is to prepare students to be informed and responsible members of society. Flocabulary is a very effective tool to help achieve that goal.

Q: What made this shout-out contest topic interesting to your students?
A: This particular contest was extremely interesting to my students because of their heartfelt concerns and questions about recent terrorists’ attacks. They were eager to express their feelings in a medium they love (rap/poetry and music).

Q: What led you to start having students write their own rhymes?
A: I started having my students write their own rhymes and raps about current events and issues when I experienced the positive impact Flocabulary had on student engagement.

Q: Has writing raps about engaged students in a new way or sparked new interests?
A: When lesson activities incorporate writing raps, students are focused, motivated and collaborate with each other about vocabulary, lyrics and background music.

Q: Have any tips for other teachers who might like to use rhyme-writing in their lessons?
A: When you first start, let students select a topic that is important to their lives. I gave students a range of topics that impact their daily lives. I also allowed them to suggest a topic. After they experience the fun and success of their first project, they will be eager to use their rhyme/rap skills to master other topics.

Thanks to Debra, her students and all of our other contest entrants for their thoughtful responses to difficult topics.

Do you want to lead a rhyme-writing project with your students? Check out our Writing Academic Rhymes resources. Do your students want to win the next Shout-Out? Click here for the current Week in Rap contest prompt.